Maria Cardona: Some in GOP have criticized Obama's Afghanistan trip this week
She says GOP using faux anger, same as earlier criticism of Obama's bin Laden ad
She says Romney had said killing bin Laden not a priority; he should own his words now
Cardona: GOP hypocritical; would gladly claim credit if its candidate had killed bin Laden
Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
You would think that President Obama’s surprise trip to Afghanistan yesterday and speech to the troops would have quieted – at least for one night – the latest installment of the GOP’s “Faux Anger Chronicles.” While most of the president’s critics were silent or praised him for the trip, others didn’t disappoint in following along with the fad.
Faux anger: It’s all the rage. At least in politics.
The president’s speech honored and thanked our troops, reviewed our strength and resolve in Afghanistan and in killing Osama bin Laden – who planned the 9/11 tragedy in that country – and also in getting rid of 20 of 30 of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants.
It provided a slight break in the action from the GOP temper tantrum that began earlier this week. That one was over the Obama campaign’s ad, which had the audacity in using the president’s decision to move forward on the raid to bring down Osama bin Laden, no doubt a tremendous accomplishment for the administration and the country. The ad appalled GOP critics because we all know the Republicans would never have “gone there.”
Oh wait, they would and they have. Do we remember 9/11? With President Bush holding the megaphone, standing atop the rubble of ground zero? With caskets draped in the U.S. flag? These were not postcards being sold on the street corners of NYC to commemorate the event that changed our lives forever. These were images of President Bush’s 2004 campaign ads. Back then of course, Democrats cried foul, and Republicans stood their ground.
The difference now is that Democrats have taken a page right out of the Republican playbook, using strength on foreign policy to remind people of the courageous decision Obama – a Democrat –made, ordering the raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan (more on that later). The Republicans don’t much like being shown up on what has historically been their turf.
As I say to my children whenever they throw a temper tantrum: tough noogies. Deal with it. Those who worked for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and saw their candidate get bloodied by George W. Bush and allies have even harsher words.
If the tables were turned, does anyone think Republicans wouldn’t have used this accomplishment? No. Does anyone think that if – God forbid – the mission had gone sour, Obama’s opponents would not have used it as the No. 1 reason to get him out of office? No.
This is exactly what happened to Jimmy Carter and why it is so bizarre that Mitt Romney actually brought up Carter in his response when asked if he would have ordered the mission to kill bin Laden. We know Jimmy Carter would have, because he did order a difficult mission like this before. Unfortunately, Operation Eagle Claw failed, as did Carter’s presidency because of it.
What we don’t know is whether Mitt Romney would have ordered the bin Laden raid. According to Mitt Romney in 2008, he actually wouldn’t have done so under the exact same circumstances that President Obama said he would and in fact did.
Let’s remember that after the George W. Bush administration went into Tora Bora looking for bin Laden and didn’t find him, the search took a back seat to going into Iraq and getting Saddam Hussein. Bush actually de-prioritized the search for Osama bin Laden. And this became the line that many Republican candidates would follow in the 2008 campaign.
Before then, in 2007, Mitt Romney had said he would not move heaven and Earth to find Osama bin Laden. He did clarify his statements a couple days later and also in a debate, saying that getting bin Laden was important, but so was focusing on other top tier al Qaeda leaders. But the more damning statement came afterward, when he strongly criticized then-Sen. Obama for saying he would go into Pakistan to get bin Laden without the help of the Pakistanis if he had actionable intelligence to do so. Romney called those statements “ill-timed” and “ill-considered.”
Mitt Romney needs to learn that words matter. When he says in no uncertain terms that he would not in fact order a mission in Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistanis, and then criticizes his opponent for saying he would, why should we not judge him on exactly those words?
So Mr. Romney, if you would like to now take back those words and concede you were wrong, you should do so. But don’t expect the American people to buy into your faux anger when your opponent is questioning how you would have acted when you yourself have provided the words that lead to that legitimate doubt.
Additionally, the Romney campaign and Mr. Romney himself is saying any president would have made the same decision President Obama did. Not true. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he thought it was “gutsy” and one of the most courageous calls he has seen a president make. The intelligence available at the time was 50-50 at best that bin Laden was even in that compound. Vice President Biden said he had advised against it and that in fact the only person in that room that told the president to go was then CIA Director Leon Panetta.
So in the infamous words of the GOP’s beloved Newt Gingrich: Spare me the pious baloney. Or at least the faux anger – even if it is politics’ newest fashion craze.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Maria Cardona.